HC Deb 05 December 1966 vol 737 cc914-5
4. Mr. Boston

asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied that it is sufficient for cervical cancer tests to be carried out once every five years; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. K. Robinson

I am advised that on present information the interval is reasonable, but I shall be willing to reconsider it in the light of experience and research.

Mr. Boston

My right hon. Friend's willingness to reconsider it will be welcome, because it is the view of some doctors that a short period of, say, two years would be preferable, especially in view of the fact that one of the two forms of cancer concerned tends to develop rather more quickly than the others.

Mr. Robinson

Research is going on into this. All I can say is that at the moment the five-year interval is based on what we consider the probable natural history of the pre-invasive condition.

Mr. Braine

We very much welcome the Minister's willingness to look at this aspect of the matter. Is he aware that recent experience of screening suggests that some positive results are being detected now among women below the age of 35? Would he consider the possibility of reducing the age at which screening begins?

Mr. Robinson

We have discussed this before at Question Time. The lower age limit is to some extent tied to our resources and the stage of development of the service. Women below that age who want to have a test are not refused and the full service will be extended as soon as possible.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the Minister certain that there are sufficient facilities to deal with all cases which are detected by this test?

Mr. Robinson

No doubt the hon. Member means hospital facilities—and the answer is, Yes. Sir.

29. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Minister of Health what progress is being made in the provision of facilities for cervical smear tests.

Mr. K. Robinson

By June of this year tests were being performed at a rate of nearly 1¼ million a year. This was double the figure for June 1965.

Dr. Dunwoody

I thank my hon. Friend for that most encouraging reply. Will he ensure that further public health education measures are taken to encourage more of the women who are especially at risk to visit these clinics? Would he also take steps to ensure that, wherever possible, clinics are held in the evening so that women with large families can more easily visit them?

Mr. Robinson

I will certainly consider the last point my hon. Friend has made. Publicity has to be carefully managed locally to keep it more or less in line with the development of facilities. I have been in communication with local health authorities which are responsible for publicity on this point.